All crows seem pretty brainy to me, but the endemic crow from New Caledonia and nearby islands is scary-smart. A series of investigations into their intelligence is suggesting higher-order reasoning – fully on par with that of humans and other apes.
As reported by Gisela Telis at Science NOW, Alex Taylor and colleagues at the University of Auckland have had to train captive New Caledonian Crows to take part in specific tests of their intellect that allow the researchers to discriminate between relatively simple food association and truly complex reasoning.
The crows make and use tools in nature – generally fashioning twigs into skewers that help them access juicy grubs in tree branches. In the lab, Taylor’s team first taught the crows that short twigs would not help them reach meat placed just out of reach. After a while, the crows didn’t bother at all with the short twigs – they learned that the short twigs couldn’t help them get the food.
But when the researchers placed a long twig in the cage, the crows quickly recognized at something that could help them get the meat. But there was a catch – the long twig was out of reach too. The long twig was, however, within reach of the short twig.
The solution? The crows used the short twig, to get the long twig, to get the food. When I read the description of the result, I thought, “Okay, that’s pretty smart.” Then I watched the linked video – whoa. Check it out and prepare to be amazed.